What Is an Academic Advisor in College?

Maybe you would like to use the services of an academic advisor in the future, or have already consulted one, or maybe you yourself would like to become an academic advisor in the future. In any case, in our article you will find comprehensive information about the profession of an academic advisor.

Academic Advisor Job Description

An academic advisor is essentially an assistant for students in achieving their academic goals. An advisor gives counseling on the college program, the cost of courses, and the schedule, and helps determine the educational direction. They review test scores, transcripts, and prerequisites to determine program or class eligibility. Academic advisors can also help in choosing a career after university, as part of professional orientation. They understand the academic policies, the requirements of the courses, and the the graduation requirements, so they can guide you to your goal in the most optimal way.

An academic advisor is not only a storehouse of useful information, but also a person who can evaluate your skills, your interests, and your potential. Such an advisor can direct you to the right courses, taking into account your predispositions and your previous experience.

Many academic advisors are very sociable and good at networking: you can always find out from them about course changes, test scores, deadlines, costs, and all sorts of student events. All in all, with the help of an academic advisor, you will be able to coordinate your learning process or post-graduation process in the most productive and useful way.

What Does an Academic Advisor Do?

Now that we’ve covered the definition of an academic advisor, let’s see in more detail what is included in the duties of this profession. This list will be especially useful for those who plan to become an academic advisor. For the most part, an adviser's job consists of organizing all sorts of activities, and supporting students throughout their educational journey.

Morning meetings and student appointments

Academic advisors usually kick off their day with team gatherings to chat about the latest updates and upcoming events. This is then often followed by one-on-one appointments with students to dive into educational pathways, course choices, academic challenges, and personal issues.

Academic planning and goal setting

Advisors assist students in mapping out their academic voyage by examining the course schedule, discussing long-term aspirations, and tweaking plans as needed to keep them on the right path. They also pinpoint chances for internships or studying abroad while establishing realistic academic achievement targets.

Supporting special groups and events

Advisors assist special groups like first-year students, athletes, or program-specific students. They aid in organizing events like career fairs, major declaration days, and honors ceremonies to enhance student experiences.

Administrative tasks and communication

Academic advisors have ongoing administrative duties like handling emails and documentation, organizing resources such as course catalogs and scholarship details, and ensuring effective communication through newsletters, social media, and websites.

Professional development and networking

To enhance their expertise, academic advisors partake in continuous professional growth activities such as workshops, conferences, online resources, and networking with peers in higher education, ensuring they remain abreast of the latest educational trends, counseling strategies, and technological advancements.

After-hours support and outreach

Advisors might organize after-hours support sessions to accommodate students who are unable to meet during standard hours. Moreover, they play a proactive role in community outreach by visiting nearby high schools, interacting with potential students, and emphasizing the significance of academic guidance in paving the way for a prosperous educational journey.

Personal time for reflection

Maintaining a healthy equilibrium between the responsibilities of academic advising and self-nurturing is vital for sustaining productivity and mental well-being. Advisors frequently utilize personal time during pauses to contemplate student interactions, assess techniques for academic achievement, and collect their ideas, guaranteeing a rejuvenated outlook and renewed vigor upon returning to work.

Who makes a good academic advisor?

Since an academic advisor must constantly communicate with different people and solve various kinds of issues, they must have the following qualities: resourcefulness, interpersonal skills, empathy, attention to detail, diplomacy, patience, organization, sense of humor, of course basic computer skills, thoughtfulness in interacting with people of different backgrounds, and excellent oral and written communication skills.

Academic advisors in depth

In order to better understand the profession of an academic advisor, you need to understand that there are high school academic/college advisors and post-secondary academic/college advisors. These advisors have different responsibilities and work aspects, which we will discuss below.

High school academic/college advisors

Academic advisors help high school students decide on admission to a higher education institution, help with choosing a program, inform about the requirements of the university, the schedule, and the cost of courses. Such a consultant is simply necessary for graduates, and of course if you plan to become an academic advisor in high school, then you need to be competent in all matters regarding admission to universities.

Advisors help students prepare for the SAT and ACT, and plan for jobs after school by giving advice on careers, internships, finding work, making resumes, and how to do well in job interviews. High school students also turn to advisors for help in finding scholarships or exchange programs. They often organize workshops to talk about careers, give motivation, and show students future job options.

Postsecondary academic/college advisors

Academic advisors at community colleges assist students of different ages, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged individuals and retirees. They help students choose the right classes, transfer to four-year universities for their bachelor's degrees, or explore job opportunities. University academic advisors work in diverse settings, ranging from small private colleges to large public institutions. Apart from aiding students in selecting courses and majors, they offer guidance on various aspects of students' personal and professional lives.

Advisors at postsecondary levels support students in handling challenges such as balancing priorities, coping with test and class-related stress, and developing self-reliance. Their goal is to establish a supportive atmosphere and build meaningful relationships with students. Academic advisors at all levels aim to not only guide students academically, but also nurture their personal growth and success throughout their educational journey.

Where does an academic advisor work?

Academic advisors work in high schools, community colleges, universities, online education institutions, technical and vocational schools, and private educational organizations. They assist students with course selection, academic planning, career guidance, and personal development across various educational settings.

Education and certification requirements

If you are determined to become an academic consultant, then first of all you will need to decide which institution you will work at (college, high school or vocational school). Of course, before submitting your application, you should study the requirements of employers, and learn about the various vacancies, since much depends on the particular educational institution. We will now describe fairly general requirements, but the details will depend on the vacancy.

Degree: Get an appropriate degree in a field such as counseling, education, psychology, or social work. To work as an academic advisor, you will need a bachelor's or master's degree in one of the above areas. Also, scientific work related to student counseling is always a plus.

Certification: This is optional, but obtaining a supervisor's certification will definitely be an advantage for you when looking for a job. The National Association of Academic Counseling (NACADA) offers certification programs that will help you improve your knowledge and skills in this field.

How to Become an Academic Advisor

We’ve talked about the diploma and certification requirements, and now we will analyze in more detail the steps towards becoming an academic advisor.

Step 1: Pursue the Appropriate Education

An essential qualification for academic advisors is a bachelor's degree, with many programs preferring candidates holding a master's degree in areas such as psychology, education, or communications.

Step 2: Gain Relevant Experience

Acquiring experience in a university environment, especially in positions related to student support or academic affairs, whether through internships, part-time roles, or volunteer opportunities, can be incredibly beneficial.

Step 3: Obtain Certifications

While it may not be obligatory, pursuing academic advising or counseling certifications can significantly boost one's credentials within the field and demonstrate a strong dedication to professional development.

Step 4: Network Within the Academic Community

Engaging with current academic advisors and seasoned professionals in higher education can provide valuable perspectives on the industry, potential career paths, and the everyday duties and challenges faced by advisors.

Step 5: Apply for Positions and Seek Professional Development

You can apply for available academic advisor roles at universities, community colleges, or online educational institutions by following their hiring procedures. Once in the position, it's essential to actively pursue opportunities for professional growth and development to enhance your skills and excel in the role.

Salary range for academic advisors

When it comes to the earnings of academic advisors, a medley of factors like geographic location, educational background, specialized certifications, additional competencies, and years of experience can sway the salary spectrum. Academic advisors at prestigious universities commonly command more substantial pay packages compared to those at community colleges or public schools.

Intriguing insights from various sources shed light on this financial landscape. On ZipRecruiter, the average yearly academic advisor salaries range between $35,423 and $49,790 across different states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a median annual salary of $50,050 for academic advisors, with the lower bracket earning around $33,610 and the upper echelon reaching heights of $94,690.

Diving into a snapshot of average earnings reported by diverse platforms unveils a mosaic of figures, such as $45,490 from ZipRecruiter, $42,548 from Indeed, $48,367 from Glassdoor, $46,888 from, and $43,353 from Payscale.

Beyond salaries, advisors often enjoy a suite of benefits and perks, along with the luxury of school holidays. Many find themselves embracing extended breaks during holiday seasons and scaled-back hours over the summer, adding a touch of flexibility to their rewarding roles.

Employment projections

The forecasts regarding academic advisor roles are quite promising. It is expected that in the period from 2018 to 2028, the number of jobs for academic advisers will grow by 8%, as the number of people of all ages who seek higher education to achieve new career levels increases.

What Skills Does an Academic Advisor Need?

Empathy and active listening skills

Advisors are required to showcase empathy and effective active listening abilities to grasp and empathize with students' worries, acknowledge diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, and establish a strong connection that assures students that they are being listened to and understood.

Knowledge of higher education systems

To guide students effectively, facilitate solutions, and offer accurate advice, academic advisors need to have a comprehensive understanding of college and university policies, procedures, structures, and educational pathways. This knowledge empowers advisors to navigate the academic landscape adeptly, ensuring students receive tailored guidance and support.

Interpersonal and communication skills

Since advisors collaborate closely with students, faculty, and administrative staff, possessing strong interpersonal and communication skills is essential. This demands the capacity to effectively convey intricate information in a clear, supportive manner, fostering positive interactions and ensuring smooth communication across various stakeholders in the academic environment.

Multicultural competency

Academic advisors need to exhibit cultural sensitivity and a deep awareness of the diverse student communities they serve. By practicing cross-cultural communication, empathy, and understanding, advisors can ensure equitable support for all students, catering to their individual needs and fostering an inclusive and supportive academic environment.

Problem-solving and critical thinking

Advisors need to excel in problem-solving and critical thinking to creatively address various challenges, including assisting students with re-enrollment after a leave of absence, clarifying complex degree pathways, or managing exceptions to academic regulations. By delving into students' requirements and institutional policies, advisors can offer effective solutions tailored to individual circumstances.

Technology proficiency

With the growing integration of technology in academic support services, advisors are required to have skills in utilizing student information systems, scheduling software, and online communication tools. This proficiency enables them to engage with students efficiently and provide optimal support in today's digitalized educational landscape.

Documentation and record-keeping skills

To uphold administrative standards, foster accountability, and promote students' academic achievements, it's vital to meticulously document advising sessions, degree plans, and important milestones. These accurate records play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with regulations and monitoring progress towards academic success.

Advantages and disadvantages

As in any other profession, being an academic advisor has its advantages and disadvantages, which we will consider below.


Among the advantages of academic advisors, one can note the diversity of work: you always work with different people and solve different tasks. You help students achieve their goals and objectives in the academic field. You work in an intellectual environment, among professors, scientists, and students. In the end, you can observe how the students succeed thanks to you.


Working as an academic advisor can involve a heavy workload, emotional strain from assisting students with challenges, limited career advancement opportunities, seasonal spikes in responsibilities, handling difficult student situations, job insecurity due to budget changes, and potential professional isolation. Despite these cons, many advisors find the rewards of guiding students and positively impacting their educational journeys to be immensely fulfilling.

Professional Development for Academic Advisors

Continuing education

Numerous academic advisors pursue ongoing education to enhance their expertise and stay current in their field. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising provides a range of professional growth avenues, such as yearly conferences, accolades, funding opportunities, online classes, e-tutorials, and a program for up-and-coming leaders, enabling advisors to continuously develop their skills and knowledge.

Professional associations

Among the professional organizations for academic advisors are NACADA, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), Student Affairs Professionals for Higher Education (NASPA), Academic Impressions, the American Counseling Association, and the National Career Development Association.

Jobs Available to Academic Advisors Beyond Advising

Academic advisors possess a diverse skill set that opens up various career pathways beyond traditional academic advising roles. Here are some alternative job opportunities where academic advisors can apply their expertise:

  1. Career Guide: Academic advisors can switch to career guidance roles, helping people explore job options, improve job searching skills, and plan career growth.
  2. Student Support Coordinator: Advisors create programs to boost student success by keeping them engaged and supported throughout their studies.
  3. Course Designer: Advisors can help develop study programs and materials that meet academic standards and institution goals.
  4. Education Manager: Advisors can manage educational programs, ensure they are effective, and follow rules and policies.
  5. Study Coach: Advisors can become study coaches, assisting students with improving grades, setting goals, managing time better, and enhancing study skills.
  6. Administration Role: Advisors can take up administrative positions in universities, overseeing departments and student services.
  7. Education Consultant: Advisors can give advice to schools on student support, retaining students, and developing programs.
  8. Training Specialist: Advisors can focus on training staff in educational organizations, designing workshops and programs for professional development.

These roles provide diverse opportunities for advisors to use their skills in education and help students achieve success.


The profession of an academic advisor is very important and necessary, as you can see from this article. And as we have already noted, professions related to the academic field will gain momentum in the future, as we are increasingly moving towards learning and improving our skills all our lives. Here, we have given a complete guide to the profession of an academic advisor, so we hope we’ve answered any questions you may have had.


What is the point of an academic advisor?

An academic advisor helps students of universities and high schools in organizing their studies and their schedule, solves various problems, and also informs about the cost of courses, as well as grades, events, and changes in studies; they also organize appointments, etc.

What is the highest salary for an academic advisor?

The highest salary of an academic advisor is approximately $95,000 per year.

What is the difference between an academic advisor and a counselor?

Academic advisors guide students on academic paths, course choices, and educational goals, while counselors provide support for mental health and personal well-being. Advisors focus on academics, while counselors address emotional well-being, with each role requiring distinct training and expertise in their respective areas.

What does an educational advisor do?

An educational advisor guides students in academic decisions, career goals, and study strategies to help them succeed in their educational journey and achieve their goals.